There are many websites providing information for individuals on the spectrum, their families, and people who support them. In this document, we call those websites ‘autism websites’.

It can be difficult for you to know when you can trust the content of an autism website. In research, we use tools to assess website quality
(for example, check out the DISCERN tool, at:
http://www.discern.org.uk/original_discern_project.php).

The DISCERN tool prompted us to generate a list of questions that non-researchers can use to judge the quality of websites that you visit. We hope that this list of questions helps you to better understand which websites are helpful and which are not so helpful.

If you answer ‘no’ to many of the questions listed below about a website you frequently visit, you can send this list to the content authors to give them an opportunity to address any issues raised.

These questions can be used by individuals on the spectrum (from here, we refer to ‘individuals’), family members, and other people who support them.
If you have feedback about these questions, please email Kate van Dooren at k.vandooren@uq.edu.au.

This checklist was adapted by Dr Kate van Dooren (Post Doctoral Fellow Autism CRC, The University of Queensland), Dr Marita Falkmer (Post Doctoral Fellow Autism CRC, Curtin University), and individuals, including Mr Matthew Bennett PhD Candidate Flinders University, Ms Jacky den Houting PhD Candidate Autism CRC, and Mr Joel Wilson (Curtin Autism Research Advisory Group).

Questions to ask about websites. 

Download a printable version of these questions here.

1. Is the content clear enough for you to understand how the website might help you? (HINT: is the language easy to understand?)
Yes/No

2. Can you easily find a list of references for information so you can tell if it is based in research? (HINT: references often appear at the bottom of the webpage)
Yes/No

3. Is there a date for information provided so you can tell when it was written? (HINT: check the bottom of the page for a year)
Yes/No

4. Is there a date for when the authors plan to review the information to make sure it’s still up-to-date? (HINT: check the bottom of the page to see if the authors have provided a date for review)
Yes/No

5. Does the information provided put the needs of individuals first?
Yes/No

6. Does the website encourage others to talk to individuals about their needs rather than make assumptions about what those needs might be? (For example, a website may encourage checking with a person about their sensory preferences, rather than assuming what those preferences might be)
Yes/No

7. Does the website list the risks that might go along with following their advice? (Hint: it is more useful if the risks are reported by an independent source)
Yes/No
 
8. Does the website list the benefits that might occur if you follow their advice? (Hint: it is more useful if the benefits are referenced by an independent source)
Yes/No
 
9. Does the website tell you what might happen if you don’t follow their advice? (Hint: the website might suggest that your oral health might suffer if you don’t brush your teeth every day)
Yes/No
 
10. Does the information provided take into account the wider context of people’s lived experience? (For example, friends, family, living arrangements, employment)
Yes/No
 
11. Does the website give you links to other information that might be helpful?
Yes/No
 
How many times did you circle ‘yes’?
 
If you circled ‘yes’ for fewer than half of the questions, you might wish to consider the content of the website with caution. There may not be enough information for you to trust the content of this site.
 
 
Date created: April 2015
Date for review: April 2016
References:  For the original DISCERN checklist, please visit: http://www.discern.org.uk/index.php.
With many thanks to Dr Sheppard for her valuable contributions to this document.